Two costumes worn in the classic I Love Lucy television series have been donated to the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center in Lucille Ball’s hometown, Jamestown, NY.
Both costumes, a 13-piece clown outfit and a lion tamer ensemble complete with safari hat and bullwhip, were worn by Pepito Perez, a long-time friend of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Perez was responsible for helping develop Lucy and Desi’s 1950 vaudeville act which toured the country to prove to CBS Television that the American public would accept the redhead and the band leader as a comedy team. The following year, Pepito appeared in the pilot for I Love Lucy where he can be seen wearing his famous clown costume.
Later, Perez wore both costumes in "Lucy’s Show Biz Swan Song" known as Episode 52 to I Love Lucy aficionados worldwide. The storyline finds Pepito, the Spanish Clown auditioning for Ricky at the Tropicana Nightclub. In the scene, Pepito performs his world-famous baby crying act, does a lion tamer routine, and rides the world’s tiniest bicycle. The episode was filmed October 17, 1952 and aired later that year.
These original costumes were recently purchased by William and Mary Rapaport of East Amherst, New York. After the passing of Pepito's widow, many of the personal effects from the Perez Estate appeared on the Hollywood auction block. The Rapaports, staunch supporters of the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center, participated in the auction and immediately donated the costumes to the organization in Lucille Ball's hometown.
"We were happy to secure these rare costumes so that they can be shared with the thousands of folks who not only love Lucy, but who make the pilgrimage to her hometown each year," Bill Rapaport said. "We're glad that Jamestown celebrates the First Couple of Comedy in a first-class way and are happy to lend our support."
Mary Rapaport added, "One of the things that is especially touching to me is to see how the I Love Lucy show continues to be enjoyed by children and adults alike. It's evident every time I visit the Lucy-Desi Museum and Desilu Playhouse in Jamestown. I hope these costumes will not only be enjoyed by all visitors, but will especially light up the faces of Lucy and Desi’s younger fans."
Last year, the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center opened the Desilu Playhouse, a showplace devoted to the I Love Lucy television series. Jamestown's newest attraction was made possible primarily through private funding from the Rapaports. The Desilu Playhouse occupies the ground floor of the Rapaport Center at 2 W. Third Street in downtown Jamestown.